Updated: Mar 21, 2020
Nature Knows is a three part series exploring the natural tendencies of animals, and how to use these tendencies to better understand ourselves.
By Brenna Topham, RDN, LD
I love bunnies. And so do my dogs- for different reasons…
In particular, two of my dogs love hunting bunnies. Whenever they’re in a forest or field, they’ll be leaping over bramble, twisting through the trees, and crawling into nooks to find their prize.
My two other dogs however, they’d rather just chill. All are perfectly healthy and happy pups. Dogs only have their internal cues to rely on when it comes to exercise. But for humans, we have a slew of recommendations, articles, and social media influencers swaying our decisions to move our body.
Broad recommendations on fitness and exercise can set unrealistic or unpleasant expectations. For some of us, these guidelines are just plain unhealthy.
Intuitive movement: the practice of allowing yourself to listen to your internal cues through mindfulness to determine how, when, and what quantity of movement feels good. It is our healthy self that says “a nice jog would feel soothing” or “it’s hot outside, please slow down”. This is what drives children in motion to stop for water, pause when they see a pretty flower, or choose to stay inside and rest.
As we grow into adults, we hear messages that alter our relationship with movement. It pulls us away from our intuitive health and towards someone else’s ideal. We may begin to use movement as a way to alter our body or try to reach a different level of perceived health. This strife can cause friction. We may develop fears of movement environments, failure of moving “right”, fueling our body for movement, or allowing ourselves to rest. Diving into and challenging these anxieties can allow our healthy selves to take ownership of our movements. We can get closer to our inner child who just wanted to feel the wind in his hair as he biked down a peaceful hill.
My hamster has never once been told to run on his wheel. Yet, every night at 2 am, the squeaking of his wheel will annoy me. He hasn’t read some trendy study on exercise and health, or seen the latest fitness magazine, or body checked to determine his length of exercise. He’s not trying to bulk up or slim down, he was never teased or bullied by his friends to run more or less. (Syrian hamsters are aggressively territorial so he can’t even have friends).
So why does he run?
No clue. Maybe it’s something fun to do. Maybe it’s an internal instinct. Maybe in his hamster brain he thinks he’s going somewhere. Maybe running feels good.
Notice that all the animals have smiling faces while they move- if you don't feel that same exuberance ask yourself these questions:
Why do you move? Does it feel good? Is it a way to cope with or stifle your emotions? Is it healthful for yourself or helpful for your eating disorder? How would you move if you’ve never seen a fitness ad or heard skewed advice?